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Buying Drugs Online.

Buying drugs from Canadian online pharmacies can equal big savings, but first know your sources.

An Ounce of Prevention

How can you tell whether a cyberpharmacy is legit? A bill currently before the U.S. Senate, called the Dorgan-Snowe Drug Importation Bill, would establish a system for ensuring that imported drugs are approved by the FDA and are made in FDA-inspected facilities. In addition, drugs could only be imported from countries with a drug regulation system comparable to that of the U.S. The bipartisan bill also calls on the FDA to establish a list of approved Canadian pharmacies on its web site and furnish a toll-free phone number for Americans to verify the legitimacy of a Canadian pharmacy. The FDA would also be required to inspect both Canadian pharmacies and U.S. importers of prescription drugs to ensure that they comply with the law.

At least three similar drug importation bills have been passed by the House of Representatives, but to date no drug importation bill to benefit consumers has made it into law.

In the meantime, consumer advocates in the U.S. and Canada recommend that people who are considering buying drugs from online pharmacies -- domestic or foreign -- follow the following steps:


  • Don't take any prescription drugs that have not been prescribed for you by a doctor or other qualified health care provider who has examined you in person.
  • Don't order drugs from web sites that don't list a street address, telephone number, or means of directly contacting a pharmacist.
  • Don't buy from sites that offer prescription drugs without a prescription, or that will issue prescriptions after you fill out an online questionnaire or telephone consultation.
  • Do check to make sure that the site participates in the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) seal program, run by the U.S.-based National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. NABP certifies pharmacies in the U.S. (including territories), eight Canadian provinces, Australia, and South Africa.


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